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Welcome! I don't know about you guys, but I plan on having a good time. It's a lot of work putting together each episode, but photography has been in my life — work and play — since I was a strapping sapling simpleton. And that's saying something (especially if you try to say it through thrice).

Connect or comment, please. Each episode will have a conversation, and I'll be glad to strike one up with you, too!

- Mark

Feb 16, 2018


The show is finally to the point where it doesn't have to ask its, um, cousin to buy the Boone's Farm wine — we can do that ourselves now, thank you very much. And as soon as we snag a few dollars from mom's purse we are definitely cruising for some BooFar (that's Boone's Farm to us vino cognoscenti). And Ritz Crackers are, like, from the Ritz Carson motel, right? Alright, we're doing it up classy tonight!

What we are doing, by the way, is serving up not just a stack of crackers but also some stacking photography, with a new piece of hardware from an experienced company of software — Helicon Soft — that brings some welcome improvements in making those myriad images needed to create the otherwise impossibly deep depth of focus.

Peter Ensenberger is not that cousin we mentioned, but he joined the party last time and laid down the law, well, explained the rules of good composition last time. This time, he tears it all down and explains the why-not of the why-not-screw-the-rules. And we jump in afterward with some more focused instructions for screwing those rules. Talk about kicking a good rule when it's down…plus, with one bottle of BooFar already gone — they say good wine is easy drinking, right — our focus might need a little focusing.

And, again as last time, I invite in a coterie of commentetators, quotidians, um, speaker people, um, folks! to share their quotable advice regarding ignoring rules. A bunch of rebels they are. Hey! Don't bogart those Ritz, man!

But first, before this wine really kicks in…hmm? You didn't realize fine wine comes with a screw top?, summer berry flavor… Like I said, before this wine kicks in, let me introduce you to my little friend: the very short history of digital cameras. It's not very long, either the history or my recounting of it, it has many facts that are probably true, and it includes some new car pricing, so you know it's a laugh riot.

C'mon, hold out your Star Wars action cup for another giant gulp of BooFar, and let's splash right in to, hey, you're my best friend, right, you know that right? I love you man. No, yeah, no, yeah, man, I love All Things Photography man!

HISTORY: Digital Cameras

Okay, let's see how short and painless I can make this. You don't need to know this to enjoy pulling out your smartphone or your fifty-thousand dollar Phase One medium format digital camera and snapping a snappy-snap, so with as little depth as I can get away with, here's the history of digital photography.

It was 1975 that an engineer at Eastman Kodak attempted a self-contained digital camera. It weighed 8 pounds, about three-and-a-half kilograms, and recorded the image to cassette tape with a black-and-white resolution of less than a megapixel. Less than a tenth of a megapixel, actually. Okay, fine, one one-hundredth of a megapixel! Shutter speed? Twenty-three seconds. It was not actually intended as a product, but an exploration of the technology.

spy satellite

Here's an illustration, via Wikipedia, of a KH-4B reconnaissance satellite. In movies they always make spy satellites look like a squarish sparkly block or short stubby tube with solar panels flared out — this looks more like a submarine for the stars! (Torpedo to the heavens? Ball point pen to the gods?)

Speaking of technology, believe it or not, spy satellites in the sixties and seventies used actual film for making their spy pictures and would drop the film to earth to be recovered, mid-air, and processed. This meant a limited number of images could be captured before the satellite was just an empty camera floating in space. In 1976 a digital camera was launched on such a satellite and, though a bit bulky for most people, and a bit too expensive for most people, and most people don't do well in outer space, the race to put a digital camera in every hundred-dollar smartphone on the planet was on!

About a decade later the Japanese company Fuji apparently had developed a portable digital camera, but didn't market it to the public, then did market one the following year, 1989.

In 1991 Kodak introduced its first digital camera, one of a line that often married Kodak digital expertise and technology to traditional film camera bodies, usually Nikons. That first one had a 1.3 megapixel sensor and cost $13,000. I doubt they had any buy one get one free sales.

Casio added a display to the back of one of their camera models in 1995, and Minolta introduced a camera based on their regular SLR film cameras, which meant you could use the Minolta line of lenses. In 1999, Nikon introduced its D1, a from-the-ground-up a digital camera for professionals that could, à la Minolta, use the Nikon line of lenses. We're talking 2.7 megapixels and a price under $6,000 — this was twice the resolution of their Kodak collaboration from eight years earlier, at less than half the price.

Except for an Agfa brand one-megapixel camera that came free with an Agfa flatbed scanner, and that burned through four double-A batteries in about 40 shots, my first digital camera was a D1x, the successor to the D1, and though 19 years of technology has progressed to Nikon's current top model capturing 21 megapixels today, at staggering ISO numbers, it still costs only $6,500. And I don't mean that as a joke — try buying a new Porsche 911 today at 1999 pricing. And for those of you who don't know, or didn't look up those prices like I just did, in 1999 a mid-range Porsche 911 sold for $70,000, a 2018 sells for $135,000.

In these 29 years since that first Fuji model, digital cameras grew just a little bit larger, and some have remained large, but as the number of pixels raced from fewer than a million to, now, somewhere around 100 million in a $50,000 camera from Phase One — most consumer grade cameras shrank in size, eventually spawning cameras that were about the size of a credit card and less than an inch thick. Eventually, though, at the small size end of the camera spectrum, the camera components were small enough to integrate into smartphones, and now the small size end of the camera spectrum, of cameras as small standalone products, is almost completely gone.


My Sony alpha 6300 mirrorless camera. The mirror that it's missing is one that would, in the D4, below, bounce the incoming image up into the optical viewfinder and, when it was time to record an image, that mirror would flip up out of the way. With mirrorless cameras the image is always forming on the digital sensor and the viewfinder is an electronic display of that formed image.

The larger small cameras got more and more functions with, sometimes, zoom lenses that the big cameras might only dream of. These so-called bridge cameras were then joined by smaller cousins of the big cameras, a class now referred to as mirrorless cameras because, well, it's not important. The so-called mirrorless cameras are often mid-way between the features of the bridge cameras and the build quality and extensibility of the big cameras, though price-wise are near or at the numbers you see for the big cameras.

So that's where we're at in the  history of photography. It was invented around 1830, flexible film showed up about 60 years later and was the most popular medium for capturing moments for the next century or more. Digital cameras crept onto the scene 30 years ago and in the last decade have turned us all into pixel-happy idiots glued to Facetube and Instabook and whatever else these damn kids are into nowadays, rather than out splitting wood or slopping the hogs like we did when we were kids.


One of my Nikon D4 bodies. These are beasts but take a licking and keep on clicking (thanks Timex!).

I joke, but the speed of change has been pretty amazing. I began my photographic life with a camera made a few years before I was born — it sits in a drawer at my desk where I can reach for it right now and, if I put film in, the quality of its images would be unchanged from when I started shooting it as a teenager in the mid-'70s or when it was made 20 years before that. I bought my first Nikon in 1982 and it was stolen 20 years later when, the year before, I could have purchased a brand-new replacement of the exact same model. I bought a used Nikon D1x, instead, and then the D2x and then the D3 and now the D4, with the D5 beckoning. Each digital camera, purchased in pairs about four years after the previous ones, has come with greater resolving power, light gathering power, processing power, and speed. I have a Sony alpha 6300 and an iPhone. All do good work, all shoot video, fer Pete's sake, and all are out of date already!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Helicon FB Tube from  Helicon Soft

In episode fourteen I explained the idea behind focus stacking — in order to create a photo of an object that is in focus from near to far, when stopping the aperture all the way down is insufficient to the task, a solution is to photograph the object multiple times in succession, changing only where on the object the lens is focused such that in that succession of images, every part of the object is in focus on at least one of those image. Whew! Then use special software on your computer to combine all of the images, keeping only the in-focus parts of each to produce a single all-in-focus result.

Boy, I could have saved us a bunch of time if I'd just said it that way in fourteen and we could have gotten on with our lives!

But I didn't, and here we are.

The reason I bring up focus stacking again is, I learned of a product that helps me do it, and the product from one of the two companies that publishes software for doing the stacking: Helicon Soft.

In that previous episode I mentioned a photo I had created by stacking 19 differentially focused images of a penny I came across, and photographed, out in the desert. So, in homage to that earlier effort, I pulled out a bag of coins and found, among that collection, a smaller bag of pennies. I laid out a field of them and photographed 38 frames to span the field — you can see the image that was nearest focused and the farthest, plus the stacked result, on this show's web page.

In digging through those coins, I decided to also sort them by date because these were all, what are called, wheat pennies. You see, the year 1909 marked the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, so the U.S. mint changed out the art on its pennies from the previous design, the Indian head, to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the obverse, which we still have today, but on the reverse were two stylized sheaves of wheat framing the words "One Cent" and "United States of America." This design, colloquially referred to as a wheat penny, remained until 1958. (A great year, by the way.) In 1959 the reverse was changed to an image of the Lincoln Memorial.

field of pennies

It took 38 individual frames, each focused at a different distance, to put together this everything-in-focus image of wheat pennies (inexplicably shown obverse side up).

What I found, date-wise, was a preponderance of pennies from the 1940s and 1950s, up to 1958. There were, however, two outliers — a 1909, that first year of issue, and a 1943, which, yes, fit into the date range of all except that 1909, but the 1943 date was hard to read because the coin was rusted.

Wait! Rusted? I thought pennies were made of copper. And copper doesn't rust, right?

In 1943, as the U.S. needed copper for the war effort, a zinc-plated steel penny was issued. And, lo and behold, I have one.

old pennies

Above, a 1909 one cent coin, colloquially called a wheat penny due to the design on the reverse. This was the first year of this design, in honor of the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Below that is a zinc-plated-steel one cent coin from 1943, the materials chosen to allow more copper to be put into materiel for the war effort. Thus the rust.

So I set up my Nikon D800E camera with Nikkor 105mm Micro lens to capture some high-resolution images. As we learned in the focus stacking segment, though, a single shot would not be enough to capture all of the detail of a coin — even photographed dead-on — no matter the aperture. Or, rather, as we learned about diffraction in episode 19, if a single tiny aperture could yield sufficient depth of focus, the diffraction of light passing through the tiny aperture would render all the details out of focus!

So many details for recording detail!

The solution is to photograph the coin with the lens set at a sharp aperture setting — I chose an f-stop of 11 — and then create a set of images that could be stacked in the computer. Depending on the subject, lens, etc., the differential images can be obtained by moving the camera between exposures, changing the distance in steps sufficient that capture everything in focus, or to change the focus setting of the lens between exposures, toward the same result. Sometimes one method is better, sometimes the other, sometimes the results are the same.

I chose to change the focus between exposures and rather than turn the lens and peer through the viewfinder, I instead turned to the Helicon FB Tube. It is a short, what is called, extension tube — a glassless ring that is fitted between the camera body and the lens. Take off the lens, attach the FB tube as though it were a lens, then attach the lens to the FB tube as if it were the camera.

Okay, now what?

You add an app to your smartphone, whether Apple iOS or Google Android, by which you will tell the FB Tube about the lens. Which lens model is attached and at which aperture are you shooting. For some reason that information isn't available to the FB Tube from the camera or from the lens. Sort-of — I'll explain later.

You set the camera body to not autofocus, but you do set the lens to autofocus. This way the tube can make the lens do the focusing — but not in the automated way where the camera is trying to, essentially, see things in focus. So, how does this all work?

To recap the setup:

The Helicon FB Tube is attached to the camera body and the lens is attached to the FB Tube. The camera is not expecting to focus the lens, but the lens is expected to be focused by the camera. You, the camera operator, compose the image then turn the focus ring to bring the nearest detail you want in focus to be in focus. Press the shutter button as many times as are needed to capture images in focus as far back on the subject as you desire. You can even set the camera to continuous shooting mode, then press and hold the shutter release until it quits shooting at the end of the focusing distance.

This setup does not look to see if things are in focus, it merely starts with the focus setting you made and then focuses farther and farther for each exposure, changing the focus to yield all the focused images you need.

Shovel the images into your computer, run the software which, from this company is called Helicon Focus, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You could also use Zerene Stacker software — the images from the FB Tube are in no way proprietary to their own software.

Them's the basics. Here are some of the details.

The FB Tube is available for Nikon or Canon SLR cameras only. There are slight differences in how you set up the camera and lens between the two brands, but nothing significant. When you attach a lens, you must use the FB Tube software to communicate with the FB Tube to identify the lens and at which aperture you will be shooting. That communication is handled by an infrared signal emitted from a small transmitter you insert into the headphone jack of your smartphone. Once that lens and its aperture setting are communicated, shoot away! If you change the aperture, you must change the setting in the app and communicate that to the FB Tube.

The reason is, the aperture setting dictates how far the focus needs to be shifted between exposures. If the lens is set for a small aperture number, that yields a shallow depth of focus, and that will require smaller focus steps, shot to shot, while a large aperture number yields a greater depth of focus, and thus requires fewer but larger focus steps. If the FB Tube doesn't know the lens and its aperture setting, it will work but it may not yield ideal results, resulting in perhaps too many photos, as in, more than needed to get everything in focus, or too few, and you won't get everything in focus. Better to be just right.

I mentioned that the FB Tube doesn't get information from the camera or lens? One difference between the Nikon and Canon implementations is the Nikon version of the tube remembers the five most recent lenses, so if you swap between your lenses for focus stacking — and you always use the same aperture setting for that lens (even if it's a different setting than the other lenses) — you can swap and shoot. For Canon shooters, the FB Tube must be reacquainted with each lens when they are attached. Probably not Helicon's fault, and not a big deal — or a totally zero deal if you don't switch lenses — but worth my noting.

That little infrared transmitter, which looks pretty much like a headphone connector that's missing the cable, is powered by the audio signal that would normally emanate from the headphone jack, so you have to jack the volume all the way up to give it as much power as you can, then hold the transmitter very near the edge of the tube where there's an optical receiver for the infrared communications. I found it kind-of awkward to do that since the receiver, which has to be somewhere, is in a bit of a nook on my camera because the camera's grip sticks out, but it's a one-time awkwardness, and besides that, they provide an extension cable for the transmitter so you can just snake that cable-with-transmitter to be close to the receiver and communicate away.

So, how does it work? Rather, how well does it work? It works well and easily. They suggest, or at least allow, that you can put the camera in continuous shooting mode, like, rapid shooting, and in so doing they claim you can do focus stacking from photos taken hand-held, rather than bolted to a tripod. I guess that would work, as the software understands that the image from frame to frame will not differ exclusively in which elements are in focus, so I guess slight shifts, shot to shot, won't be a major problem.

For me, though, I'm using focus stacking to make sure I create an image where everything I want in focus is for-sure in focus, and that means not adding any photos to the stack that are themselves motion blurred.

As a matter of fact, I shot other coins and other things for this review, and when I put together the images for a stack of various Euro coins, with a 50 Euro cent coin featuring Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands as the centerpiece, I discovered that right across the middle of the coin, the image was blurred! Ugh! Did the software screw up? Nope. Essentially, I screwed up, though I didn't realize it at the time. Toward having the crisp details I desired, my camera was solidly bound to a tripod, I was using a wireless shutter release, and the camera's mirror was set to flip up and hold, allowing time for the camera to stop vibrating the tiny bit that occurs when the mirror is flipped up, then I would press the remote release again and activate the shutter to capture the image. Due to the dim light, my shutter speed was two seconds long, and somehow, in that single image during those two seconds, the camera vibrated, or the table vibrated, or something vibrated, and there she jiggled. Ruining my attempt. Not the product's fault, but an unexpected support for my thinking that hand-holding might be tricky. If it works for you, great, but if even one frame in the series is blurred, you'll have to shoot the whole thing over. If I hadn't moved on to another composition, I might have been able to drop the data card back into the camera and re-shot just the one frame, but alas… Still, not the fault of the FB Tube.


A single frame of the stack was blurred for some reason, a motion blur that escaped my attention until the stack was merged. I'll have to be more careful next time.

And here we start running into a problem that is the fault of the FB Tube, well, not its fault but an inescapable issue at least — it is an extension tube. The function of an extension tube, at its core, is to push the lens farther from the camera, which allows it to focus closer. I won't explain the why — it's not too complicated, but I'll leave that for another day, perhaps — and just point out that by physically moving the lens farther, and allowing the closer focusing, you also remove the lens' ability to focus farther.

You see, in a lens, the elements move forward and back as needed to focus from near to infinity, but when you move the whole shebang, even this small distance of about 12 millimeters, those elements can no longer move sufficiently to focus all the way out to the stars, or the horizon, or across the lake, or across the bridge of the USS Enterprise. You're lucky if you can focus across the table. I tried a couple of lenses and they both seemed to top out at about 4 feet, 1.2 meters, away. I didn't get out the laser rangefinder, but that's what you'll get — not much of an infinity. This is not a tool for putting the petunias and Patagonia all in focus all in one shot. This is for tabletop subjects, or flowers or small architectural details or whatever fits between the nearest focusable distance, whatever that is for the lens you use, and 1.2 meters.

I don't begrudge Helicon Soft for this — how else can you magically cause a lens to change its focus, shot to shot, with your current gear? The answer is, you add this gear, and this gear is not of zero dimension.

Now, for some more reality checking, it won't work with every lens in the book. They must be autofocus lenses with their own focusing motors built in. Most every new lens that autofocuses fits that description. In the past, and I don't have an exact date, but it was a few years ago, some lenses were autofocused by a motor in the camera body that engaged a drive pin on the lens. Those types of lenses won't work.

The software in your smartphone must know what lens you have, too, because it has to know how much to advance the focus each time, for each aperture, for that lens, because they are all different. There's a list of lenses, and of camera bodies for that matter, that are currently known to work with the FB Tube, and you can add your own lens even if it's not on the list — but it will take a little shooting and evaluating to enter the correct settings. The lens nerds and tech heads among you will appreciate the straightforward nature of the task — others out there, maybe not so much. In short, though, the result of the testing is a pair of numbers — for every f-stop number you figure out a number that represents how far the lens focuses shot-to-shot. Make up the list and you're good to go.

table tiles

Ten frames were captured to assemble into this quasi-abstract composition of colored tiles forming a table's top.

Since it is software that runs on your smartphone, there is a minimum version of your phone's operating system that is required. And don't forget that your phone must have a headphone jack. The system requirements are not steep or bleeding edge, but you should check the current requirements against your equipment to make sure you are compliant before dropping some coin on this.

Did I say coin? Let's talk money.

In US dollars the FB tube is $199 and you'll get it, well, not quickly. The company is in Ukraine and mailings seem to get kinda hung up there. If you are in Europe, they expect you'll get it within 2 weeks, and the price, per an exchange rate in effect as I write this, would put it at 162 Euros. Outside Europe the delivery times are quoted as between 20 and 40 days. Ouch, but not Helicon Soft's fault — they sent mine on Christmas day and it didn't leave Ukraine until early February. You can shorten the delivery time to a week or less, Europe or elsewhere, by adding fifty dollars to the price, which is 41 Euros. Canadians and Australians would pay about 250 of their respective dollars for regular delivery; add 63 for speedy delivery. I expect Ukrainians would find different pricing, or maybe not, but in their native currency the exchange rated price is 5,340 Hryvnia. I'm sure that's not pronounced correctly, and so I apologize to any hooligans or hackers I might have just insulted somewhere in the world.

Helicon FB Tube

Here is the Helicon FB Tube product and packaging. Nice. The small connector in the middle of the coiled cord is the infrared transmitter for your smartphone's headphone jack, and the cable can extend its reach or just make it more convenient. You can see that the tube, proper, is devoid of glass — it acts as an extension tube with brains.

To get you into the field of focus stacking, if you're interested but not yet invested, Helicon Soft offers a bundle of the FB Tube with their Helicon Focus Pro software at a $40 dollar savings over purchasing them separately.

The FB Tube comes with a one-year warranty and, get this, if you're just not satisfied with it — it might be working fine but you just don't like it — you can return it within the first 120 days! I think that's a great idea, since it's not like anything you've ever used before.

I do like it! The setup is easy and it has worked flawlessly for me. This is perfect for my project of photographing the coins collected from family members over the decades. And it would work lying in the dirt shooting nineteen frames of a plain ol', gluten-free, penny too.

The web site for the company is and I'll post that and their link to the FB Tube on this episode's web page at

CONVERSATION Peter Ensenberger: Breaking the Rules


We are joined again today by Peter Ensenberger, the former photo editor of Arizona Highways magazine and leader of customized photo workshops through Photo Tours Unlimited. We continue to share information, and guidance, and tips from his book, Focus on Composing Photos, from Focal Press. Today we are breaking the rules that we laid out last time, so sit back in your comfy chair and get out your rule-breaking hammers, 'cuz that's what we're doing today.


Here is an example of breaking the rule of space, as the Jeep is placed not with two-thirds of the frame ahead of it but, instead, with two-thirds of the frame behind. This might have been considered to have insufficient "nose room" but it obviously works well — better, probably, than if the Jeep had been caught further left. Photo by Peter Ensenberger.


More good stuff from Peter Ensenberger, helping us all to be better photographers by being better composers. And, of course, who doesn't like breaking the rules. Remember that Peter's book is Focus on Composing Photos, from Focal Press, and you can get that on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and hopefully from your local bookseller.

And remember, too, that Peter is a leader of customized photo workshops through Photo Tours Unlimited. And I'll post some links on the web site for all of that.

Click here to learn more about Photo Tours Unlimited.

PHOTO TIP Adhering to those Broken Rules

Okay, if we're so smart, well, we should be able to break those rules that we've spent the last week practicing till we're both sick of them and know them like the back of our hand — which I never understood, because if you showed me a picture of the back of my hand in a police line-up, I don't know if I could pick it from the group. Do they even still do line-ups?

Rules. Breaking.

Exhibit A: the rule of thirds. To break it, put the subject or your intended point of interest in the center of the frame. Pick that flower or church bell or stop sign or exploding firework and put it smack dab in the middle of the frame. Search out subjects or scenes that lend themselves to a centered composition. As we discussed, Peter and I, this is a more formal presentation and, if the subject is visually strong enough, can give it an imposing feeling, of dominance, but it might also calm the composition and let the subject rest, unfettered by a compositional imbalance that adds energy when you don't want it. Used unwisely, often unthinkingly, centered is static. But when the subject or mood demand it, a centered, non-rule-of-thirds, arrangement can show dominance or peace.


A formal composition giving this blooming yucca pride of place, front and center.

Number B: the rule of space. Instead of providing space, allowing space for motion to continue into the composition, cramp that motion up against an edge. If a person is walking across the frame, the rule of space suggests you give them two-thirds of the frame ahead of their direction of motion — that is where they are going. Battling the rule of space has you put two-thirds of the frame behind them; that is where they've been. And if you want to totally crush this rule, frame them the instant before they leave the frame. Or the instant after they enter it. Either way, put them against the edge — and if you want to take this to the extreme, cut them in half at the edge. Half in, half out of view. Anything in motion, of course, not just people on foot. Horse, car, helicopter, snail. Something not moving but still exhibiting an extrusion, a protuberance, a lean, a mass, anything that might call for extra room to allow it to exist, to spread — deny it that extra room. Collapse the space to spread. Push it into the corner or against the wall of your composition. Be merciless! Or, expand the space, allow it even more room to spread.


The fence post is almost off the page, giving perhaps too much space for it but plenty for the barbed wire to be the center of attention (and it's smack dab across the middle of the frame, too — kinda busting the rule of thirds too).


Here's another that leaves lots and lots of (though not too much) empty space. I certainly could have left more foreground but it would have cluttered up the composition.

Item C: the rule of odds. This one is simple enough to break — instead of three blossoms in the composition, put two-thousand-and-forty-eight and see how much more calm and balanced things look. But, you know what, don't put two-thousand-and-fifty; then you'd just be showing off.

Instead of three, put four. Or two. Six instead of five. In breaking the oddity of the number, this often settles down a composition, makes it less jittery, and I say that as a guy who has the jitters. Or, at least, likes the jitters. You can still keep energy by not presenting the even numbered, um, things arranged grid-like in the composition. Or, do arrange them in a grid to add even more calmity. Try things out and see what works.

fences 3 & 2

It seemed like showing a rule of odds next to a broken rule of odds might better illustrate the difference in feel, and it does.

Avenue D: the horizon rule. Since that rule merely says don't put the horizon across the middle of the frame, then putting it across the middle is, maybe, all there is to busting that rule. So, do that — put the horizon across the middle, just like you're not supposed to, but maybe figure out how to have a middled horizon in a composition that's still interesting. Plain foreground and really interesting sky? Plain sky and a really interesting foreground? What if you get really low? What if, ooh, get this, what if you shoot it way out of focus — the entire composition is just a study in fuzzy colors, as long as the horizon is where it's not supposed to be — smack dab across the middle.


Here's the horizon right across the middle, but more sky would have meant less of this texturally interesting foreground, and more foreground would have missed the texturally cloudy sky. So, split the difference!

In all of these rule-busting, well, not really assignments — though your photography will improve if you take them as such — the point of all these assignments is to, in some ways, heighten your awareness of the rules that you're breaking, to better appreciate their value, but also to find solutions in your work when the scene that presents itself, or that you envision or concoct, is failed by those rules and breaking them is just the thing to do.

So, go — break, break some more, learn, enjoy.


The view of rules, from artists and designers and whoever, sure spans the spectrum from learn them and use them, to learn them then break them, to rules don't mean nuthin'! Today I've collected mostly the "don't mean nuthin'" sentiments and I first recall that, back in Episode 6, I quoted Ansel Adams with "There are no rules for good photographs; there are only good photographers."

The painter Lee Fleming phrases that from the view of the result with, "The only 'rule' in painting is what works."

Helen Frankenthaler, an American abstract expressionist painter, looked at rules from how they apply to the genesis of art: "There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about." She also said, and this ties to photography, at least in my mind, "a really good picture looks as if it's happened at once."

Next, here are words from a painter and sketcher working in Philadelphia, Eric Frantz, who moves the rules discussion to a more personal place: "Rules of color, perspective and composition don't have much importance in my work... expressed are the emotions I feel in myself, my subjects and the lucid dreams I experience while pulled deep inside a canvas." I think his artwork would be categorized as expressionistic, though not abstract, for the most part. However, while he does play wildly with color, and is very loose in his style, perspective and composition are definitely in his mind when he works. I'm not saying he composes according to rules, but he definitely composes — and there's no shame in that.

Here's one that looks at rules from both sides now: "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men." That was Douglas Bader, a Royal Air Force pilot who became an ace during World War II, was captured when he bailed out over Germany, survived the war in a POW camp, and kept flying until 1979. And, by the way, he had lost both legs to a flying accident before the war. I can imagine that, yeah, he would have his own view about rules.

Finally, though, I'll turn to the Buddha for how he might have viewed rules: “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?”

Thanks mister B.


This Just In — A group of 10 art collectors, all of whom are involved in the crypto-currency, um, industry? Market? Scam-a-jamma? Anyway, 10 crypto-currency people (unless they are crypto-people that don't really exist either). ANYway, 10 people, involved in crypto-currency, joined crypto-forces to crypto-purchase a piece of crypto-artwork: a photo of a rose. Not an actual rose. Not a photographic print of an actual rose. Just a digital photo of a rose. And, they paid a million dollars for it.

forever rose

The "Forever Rose" photo that sold for $1 million of crypto currency. Photo by Kevin Abosch, and you can see more of his work at

That's it for this edition of This Just In. Join us next time when, well, we won't know till next time. Film at 11.


Say goodbye number, well, in Ukraine, this would be dvadtsyatʹ odyn. Then again, if this were in Ukraine it might not be available for another 40 days, so I'm gonna stick with good ol' American numbers and say twenty-one. (Then again, twenty and one weren't created in America — they slide back through middle and old English, then through German from Gothic, as in the Goths that sacked Rome, and so both probably stem for Proto-Indo-European, and Ukrainian also comes from Indo-European, so I'm guessing dvadtsyatʹ odyn and twenty one are not so far apart — they do kinda sound alike. Dvadtsyatʹ odyn…twenty one.)

With that out of the way, what did we learn today?

Digital cameras have been around for, at most, about 40 years and you had to own an American spy satellite to get one at first, then practical consumer digital cameras showed up 30 years ago, and every digital camera I currently own is out of date because I bought them some time before last week.

The Helicon FB Tube from Helicon Soft puts in consistency and takes out drudgery from capturing the images for a focus stacked photo.

Peter Ensenberger can break what he makes, or, at least, knows how to not follow rules that were laid down in centuries past when not following is the right thing to do. And I suggested specific tasks for doing, or not doing, just that.

Lots of people have opinions about rules, even the Buddha, and we should all follow exactly what all of them say. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Aaaaaah.

The party sounds at the beginning were secured from Sound in a recordings by Daniel Simion as was the This Just In intro music, which was by Maximilien.

Music for All Things Photography is written and performed by Juan Goudai.

Our editor is Armand Ellegge.

And wondering how I'm going to explain the broken candy dish to my mother — which I broke while cleaning it, I swear — this is Mark Bennett.